Tiger looks back in the swing after his hiatus

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Tiger looks back in the swing after his hiatus

Tiger Woods didn’t even have a club in his hand when he passed an important test Wednesday at Isleworth in Florida.

After hitting a fairway metal off the 10th tee, Woods gingerly stepped through a flower bed and then hopped off a 4-foot wall and trotted to the clubhouse to use the bathroom. It was that kind of leap - from a bunker at Firestone - that ultimately forced yet another injury-induced layoff.

His golf Wednesday wasn’t too bad, either.

Woods swung freely and easily during the pro-am at the Hero World Challenge, his first time walking 18 holes since he missed the cut Aug. 9 at the PGA Championship.

“It felt good to be out there,’’ Woods said. “I took that much time off right after the PGA and built up my body and made a few adjustments on my swing and hit some good shots today.’’

The real test is Thursday, local time, in the first round of an unofficial event with 18 elite players from the top 50 in the world, and one big buzz because of the tournament host.

Woods has slipped to No. 24 in the world, but he never lost his status as golf’s biggest draw.

“I think if he starts swinging it better and starts feeling good about what he’s doing again, it won’t take long for him to be at the top of the game again,’’ said Steve Stricker.

This is the fifth time in five years that Woods has returned from an injury. He came back too early from back surgery in June and missed two cuts in the three events he played.

Health no longer seems to be the issue. The big question is the swing.

Woods parted with swing coach Sean Foley and has brought on Chris Como, who walked the pro-am with him and occasionally chatted with him in the fairway. Woods said he looked at tape dating all the way back to his amateur days and described his goal for a new swing as “new, but old.’’

Stricker saw him briefly on the practice range and felt as though he was looking back in time. “Looks similar to the early 2000s to me, from the side when I was watching,’’ Stricker said.

That was when many believe Woods was at his best. He won seven majors in a four-year stretch from 1999-2002, and no one was close to him in the game. Woods turns 39 at the end of the month, and he joked Tuesday that “Father Time remains undefeated.’’ AP

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